Contest inspires new generations to appreciate historic island mansion
An art contest celebrating the 125th anniversary of the construction of Galveston’s iconic Moody Mansion captured the attention of island students over the winter, and yielded striking images of architectural and decorative details of the historic Moody family home on Broadway, now a museum.
“When we first came up with the idea at the end of last year, we came up with some goals,” said Betty Massey, executive director of the Mary Moody Northen Endowment, which oversees the property.
“We wanted to shine a spotlight on historic preservation on the island, and we wanted to refresh interest in Moody Mansion and expand that interest to include a younger generation,” Massey said.
The Moody family, while growing its business enterprises and fortune, bought the 28,000-square-foot, four-floor brick and sandstone home from heirs of the original owners soon after the 1900 Storm and it remained a Moody family home until 1986, according to the mansion website.
Twenty rooms furnished with personal effects and period pieces are part of a museum tour depicting the home life of the Moody family, known for building one of the nation’s great financial empires.
The lowest floor houses the Galveston Children’s Museum and a refurbished garage out back houses restored family vehicles dating back to the 1930s.
The mansion, designed by British architect William H. Tyndall, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior since 1994.
All high school and middle school students on Galveston Island, whether home-schooled, attending private, public or parochial schools, were invited to participate in the art competition celebrating the elements that make the Moody Mansion a feast for the eyes and a reminder of the island’s storied past.
“So many have never visited the mansion or any of the grand buildings on the island that tourists come to visit,” said Stephen Duncan, director of fine arts for the Galveston Island School District, who helped coordinate the contest.
Duncan took hundreds of snapshots of details of the mansion that were distributed among classrooms for students to recreate. Some participants, including Odyssey Academy, took students to tour the mansion before they created their pieces, Massey said.
For participating, whether their works made it to the finals of the competition or not, every young artist received four tickets to take their family or friends on a tour of Moody Mansion, 2618 Broadway, Massey said.
Many Ball High School students took advantage of the free tickets before the COVID-19 emergency that shut down the mansion for a time, Duncan said. Students who haven’t used their tickets can use them during the summer, Massey said.
Eight winning works — a mix of pencil, charcoal drawings and paintings in acrylic and oils — will be displayed throughout the house near the object or architectural elements the students chose to draw.
The contest deadline was March 6 and a reception for all the finalists and their families was set for April 2, but was canceled because of the pandemic shutdown.
Rather than wait until museums and schools reopened, contest organizers decided to hand out prizes, including two $500 first prizes, one for middle school and one for high school; second prizes of $350; third prizes of $200; and honorable mention prizes of $200.
“Everything had been planned for a grand reception for all the winners,” Massey said. “But we wanted to get the happy news out to the students, not make them wait forever, so we let all the schools and teachers know who were the winners.”
Using architectural detail as a focal point is a great way to teach students drawing, Duncan said. Architectural drawing was his favorite course in high school, he said. And even though he eventually earned a doctorate in music, his love of drawing remained because of those early drawing experiences, he said.
“Candice Lepo, an art teacher at Ball High School, often uses a photograph of an architectural element — a corner of a window, woodwork details — to warm students up in her classes,” Duncan said. “It’s a great way to teach drawing.”
And though most of the works are representational, copying as closely as possible the actual subject depicted in a photo, some students departed from the original to add their own imaginative touches.
“The student who did the picture of the pickup truck didn’t like the color of the truck,” Duncan said. “So she did some research to see what colors that model was available in, and decided she’d rather do it in red than green.
“That’s a cool thing about drawing and painting. You can re-imagine the subject, change it inside your head, then put it on canvas or paper.”